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SVPMA | News Blog by Dan Galatin - 2w ago

February Event Review: “Product Manager as Future Founders” with Bob Tinker, Founder and ex-CEO, MobileIron

By Steven Xiao

Can product managers transition to being startup founders?  The answer is “it depends.”  In his inspiring talk, Bob Tinker, a humble founder who stepped down as CEO of MobileIron after ten years of leading the mobile security company from a three-man startup to a public company, revealed three critical areas through which an entrepreneur can lead a metamorphosis from survival to thrival.

  • Unlocking Growth

Building a business is different from building a product.  Product-Market Fit (PMF) is a major milestone for startups, yet not sufficient to unlock growth.  The missing link is Go-To-Market Fit (GTM), which is how to stitch together product, marketing, sales, and the customers to drive growth.  PMF and GTM run in parallel, slightly offset in time.  There are three core parts of GTM. 1) Sales model.  Just pick one as there is no right or wrong.  2) Repeatable sales and marketing playbook.  It must answer two questions: how do you find and win customers?  And what is the wow that gets customers across the line?  3) Problem wave.  To drive the wave, we must figure out who cares and why now.

The indicator of doing these three things right is business momentum and growth.   However, GTM strains a company as target numbers impose pressure to everyone, cash burns fast, and culture shifts from a product-led culture to one balanced by sales and market traction.  In addition, before hiring a VP of sales, one should first hire a “trailblazer” who can find an initial path to sales through trial and error.

  • Unlearning Your Way to Success: Successful startups change as they grow.

 Once your company gets the momentum, you need to prepare for “the CEO success irony,” meaning as the company grows, the CEO’s job changes, and then you have to change.  It is like rewiring a plane while you are flying it.  Bob described three different CEO jobs that he needed to take on as his company grew.  The first CEO job is like Captain America, who leads a troop throwing punches in the woods, getting dirty with everybody else.  The second CEO job is more like leading the Avengers, a band of superheroes that all have their special superpower.  The CEO has to unite them together and keeps all moving in the same direction.  In the third phase, the CEO becomes Professor Xavier in the X-Men: a dean of a university for warriors and the next generation of heroes.  These two transitions force a significant rewiring inside.  The trickiest part is that the very things that made you successful from A to B can hold you back or kill you from B to C.  And the biggest and most difficult change is transitioning from letting the fear of short term turbulence (how to survive) guide decisions, to doing the right long-term things (how to thrive).

To rewire from inside to outside, the CEO need to discover his or her souls.  1) Self-awareness: To listen to feedback, hear the tough information, and take that account.  2) Schizophrenia.  On one hand, a CEO has to be the most optimistic leader; on the other hand, he or she need to be completely paranoid pessimist looking for what could go wrong.  3) Ability to close.  The job includes how to attract talents to join your team, how to convince investors to bet on your business, and how to build partnerships with your customers.

  • Startup Culture.

For a startup, the product is the “muscle,” the team is the “brain’, and the culture is the “soul.”  When the team is at 20 people, the founder is a culture anchor and the team is a culture set.  Proactive culture is designed and driven by a founder in a specific direction, whereas organic culture evolves by itself.  Both approaches are effective, but a founder should pick one deliberately.

Steven Xiao is an MBA graduate from Brigham Young University and is working for a start-up in San Francisco. He can be reached at stevenwxiao@gmail.com.

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SVPMA | News Blog by Dan Galatin - 1M ago

January Event Review: “Leading Global Innovation for International Market Success” with Dr. Karina Jensen, Founder, Global Minds Network

By Dan Galatin

Karina Jensen gave a fascinating talk on how to work effectively across languages and cultures to develop products that are successful in markets around the world.  Karina began by describing the challenges of multicultural collaboration, including differences in time zone, language and regional priorities.  Product plans that are dictated to regional organizations by headquarters are unlikely to succeed – they too often lack the correct concepts and designs that can connect with local customers.  Without effective global collaboration, planning, marketing, operational efficiency and sales execution are all likely to suffer.

In order to collaborate more effectively, product leaders need to build trust across the global team and ensure that there’s sufficient participation and knowledge sharing around the world.  Differences in culture always have an effect on global teamwork.  In her research, Karina found that three main elements of successful collaboration in the face cultural differences are vision, dialog, and space.

By vision, Karina means setting leadership and strategy.  The purpose of leadership is to facilitate creativity, innovation, strategy, validation, and execution.  Often, there is a great deal of knowledge distributed around the world that could be utilized in the front-end stages of creation and planning, but leadership teams at global headquarters don’t tap into it.  Local teams are involved in execution, but not as often in ideation, planning and validation.  Some organizations are trying to evolve: for example, local leaders at Philips are encouraged to start planning concepts in collaboration with global leadership.

Dialog is necessary to ensure that local teams can share their knowledge.  Knowledge sharing is very different across cultures.  In North America and Europe, this communication can be direct in nature, but in Latin America and Asia, knowledge-sharing can be more like story-telling.  In certain parts of Europe and Asia, knowledge is power, and sharing too much would be considered a loss of power and expertise.  One must consider how to create a space in which the global team feels safe sharing ideas and knowledge.  Different cultures have varying degrees of comfort with open brainstorming, sharing new ideas, and providing criticism.  In order to create collaborative dialog, we must all become better listeners.  Companies are looking at building knowledge platforms and ways to share knowledge interactively online.  BMW, Cisco and Adobe are examples of organizations that use technological innovations to build more effective platforms for collaboration.

The last element of successful collaboration is space: making sure that there is opportunity for creativity by local teams and the opportunity to share knowledge across teams.  For example, Siemens has developed a platform to optimize team knowledge throughout the world, and the company encourages teams to submit ideas for new projects.  Wipro has created “24-hour pods” of workers from around the world to solve a problem within a short period of intensive collaboration.

Karina concluded by recommending best practices for setting vision, encouraging dialog, and establishing space for collaboration.  She encouraged everyone in the audience to consider how to map these drivers to their own projects.

Dan Galatin has over 20 years of combined experience in product management and software engineering.  He is Director of Communications for the SVPMA and can be contacted at dgalatin@yahoo.com.

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SVPMA | News Blog by Dan Galatin - 2M ago

December Event Review: “Branding for Builders” with Gibson Biddle, former Netflix/Chegg VP/CPO

By Geoff Anderson

Gibson started with a question: If you had a $50 gift certificate for either Uber or Lyft, which would you choose?  The audience clearly had a preference for Lyft, and a short discussion about the companies’ respective reputations followed.  This was an objective introduction to the concept of “brand.”

What is a brand?

Why care about brand?  As a leader your job is to delight the customer in a hard-to-copy, margin-enhancing way.  While “delighting” customers doesn’t need explanation, and in fact Product Management is well versed in this dictum, the rest of this equation is worthy of a deeper dive.

First on the docket was “Hard to Copy.”  For this discussion, Gibson dove deeply into his experience at Netflix.  There are many attributes that are difficult to copy, and crafty leaders are experts in taking advantage of this.  Such factors include network effects, unique technology, economies of scale (Gibson did mention that Netflix has a huge advantage here, citing that the cost for Netflix to stream an hour of video is $0.02, whereas Hulu’s cost for the same hour of video is $0.20, a 10X advantage), switching costs (are there barriers to switching?), and of course the concept of brand.

At this point, Gibson flashed a slide with a quote that he couldn’t attribute, but one that I have heard in my travels:

“Don’t worry about the brand.  Just build a great product.”

This advice is rubbish, but not for the obvious reason.  A brand is a living entity and it needs to be tended to thrive.  And most importantly, if you assume that just having “awesome” products will be enough to pull the brand through, you are mistaken.

A better definition, one that Gibson enunciated, is that a brand is the story that builds a trusted relationship with customers.  If you think of some iconic brands, such as Starbucks, BMW, and Apple, you can begin to see the brand being bigger than the products of the companies.

A brand includes:

  • Positioning
  • Customer Benefit
  • Personality
  • Aspiration
  • Emotion

The Positioning model of the brand, getting people to notice the brand, is an art, but there are some guidelines.

  • Be highly descriptive. Use 6th grade language. Think of BMW and “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”
  • Clearly state how it will improve customers’ lives
  • If we met the “brand” at a party, how would it describe itself?

Clearly, Netflix was the prime example:

What is it

  • The TV and Movie Subscription service

What are the benefits?

  • Fast, easy, entertaining
  • Great value

What is its personality?

  • Straightforward, friendly

As an exercise, prior to the session, Gibson met with the SVPMA board, and the analysis came up with the following:

What is SVPMA?

  • A professional development organization for Product Managers

What are its benefits?

  • Learn from peers & experts
  • Advance career
  • Make friends

What is its personality?

  • Welcoming, knowledgeable

A solid analysis, and it does ring true, as indicated by the audience reaction (this was preceded by an impromptu group exercise, and was surprisingly close to what the board settled on).

The other model that Gibson discussed was the concept of a “Brand Pyramid” where you build the brand from a foundation into a greater entity.

The Brand Pyramid

To build this pyramid, you work the way the Egyptians did in constructing the Pyramid of Cheops, you start at the bottom, and build up.

An example that would be familiar to many if not all of the Product Management universe is Apple.

Something Bigger

Revolutionary Innovation

Emotional Benefits

Free, imaginative

Product Benefits

Creative, productive, easy

Product Attributes

Mobile Digital Products and Services


The session was lively and interactive.  Gibson was engaging and livened up the atmosphere with solid marketing knowledge around the importance of brand and how important it is to building a successful business.

His tales of the inner workings of Netflix were quite entertaining, from their inception as an online Blockbuster Video, to their realization that selling DVD’s was a battle that they would lose to Amazon, refocusing on the red envelope, the constant need to test hypotheses, and how important it was to building Netflix into the force that it is in streaming video (or their desire to be best associated with “Entertainment”.) Netflix’s key differentiator has become the increasingly important “Netflix Original” programming, building upon their foundation purveyor of media, and adding media creation to their consumption based model.

Since Gibson finished with ample time for questions, he spent some time on Netflix’s mistakes (Quickster, anyone?), and how the CEO, Reed Hastings built and fostered a culture of risk taking, and being open to acknowledging failures, regardless of how catastrophic they were.

Geoff Anderson – a practicing product manager with over 20 years of experience, in a variety of industries from semiconductor manufacturing equipment, networking technology, industrial measurement and test, enterprise communications software, nanotechnology, and educational services.  He has a degree in Physics from SJSU, volunteers in the rescue of retired racing greyhounds, mentors high school kids interested in science and physics, and loves to read science fiction novels.

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SVPMA | News Blog by Dan Galatin - 3M ago

November Event Review: “Three Reasons Why People Buy Your Product (and Why They Should Guide Everything You Do)” with Jamie Barnett, High Technology Leader, Adjunct Lecturer, and Pot-Stirrer.

By Steven Xiao

Persuading people to sacrifice their time, money, self-esteem or the like for another item is by no means easy, yet this is a burden of love on a product manager’s shoulders.  Over a course of an hour, Jamie Barnett introduced SVMPA members to a fundamental framework with heuristic methodology and a facilitated a role play.

Barnett broke the ice with a social engineering case.  In late January this year, the Center for Homelessness for the San Mateo Human Services Agency dispatched members to count the number of people sleeping on the street over one night.  They found 616 people were sheltered and 637 were not.  The biggest benefit, among other advantages, the sheltered people had is that they could shower and wash their clothes, which in turn helped them feel better about themselves.  The people struggled with their self-confidence because of not having these amenities.  With a mission to help the homeless, the agency faced a significant challenge, which looks like a classic product management issue.

The question of why people buy a product essentially guides where product managers should spend resources.  Whereas we could be diverted by market allurement, executive accounts’ endless wish lists, and competitors’ tactics, the paramount rule is to focus on our vision, should be directed toward the problems we desire to solve for our customers.

Reason 1: Use Cases – Does a company solve problems customers have? Can pains be articulated? Before we release our products, we have to demonstrate a deep empathy and understanding about what customers are going through.

An effective use case:

  • Describes pain points,
  • Quantifies pain points,
  • Selects functional requirements, and
  • Identifies technical requirements.

The foundation of a feasible use case is built upon extreme customer empathy.  From Barnett’s perspective, the following situations may not reflect that empathy:

  • Input from a CEO who is talking yet not listening to and observing customers.
  • Steering from a product manager lost in KPIs.
  • Advice from a marketer who hears only an end story.

Hence, rather than being the three smartest people aforesaid in a company, product manager need to be the dummies in that they are elevating the collective knowledge of a whole company by:

  • Asking questions,
  • Observing customers,
  • Listening to customers’ complaints,
  • Living their pains, and
  • Doing cross-functional check-in with all stakeholders.

Reason 2: Competency – Who is this company? What is it good at? What it is known for? And do customers value its solution?

Barnett used her former company as an example of how continuous improvement, rigorous measurement, vision-driven customer success, and scoring audition uplifted a mediocre product to the north of customer satisfaction.

Reason 3: Credibility – Can customers trust a product or a company?

Questions are raised by Barnett to encourage thinking of an infinite process of building and amplifying credibility include:

  • Do customers trust you?
  • Do they trust your vendors?
  • Do they trust a product?
  • What do analysts say about you?
  • How do presses report you?
  • How do your customers talk about you?
  • How are people experiencing with you sales persons?
  • How does a leadership behave?
  • What is your culture?
  • Are opinions from people in different functions of your company consistent? Are they on the same page?
  • Do your artifacts such as website echo your vision and competency?
  • Is your customer experience good enough to bring customers back?

After elaborating these three points, Barnett concluded her presentation by turning back to the challenge facing the homeless shelter agency and revealing the best solution: instead of waiting for people to come to shelters, the agency brought showering and laundry services to the people through mobile shelters called “Dignity on Wheels.”  This way the homeless service agency successfully wins their customers by solving their pains, building and amplifying competency, and strengthening credibility.

Steven Xiao graduated from Brigham Young University with his MBA program and is working for a start-up in Santa Clara.  He can be reached at stevenwxiao@gmail.com.

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SVPMA | News Blog by Dan Galatin - 5M ago

September Event Review: “Recruiter Panel – How do recruiters really evaluate product managers?” with Tom Brouchoud, Director of Talent Acquisition at Visa; Britt Thomas, HR Operations at Synopsis; Amanda Hippe, Recruiting Strategist of Design and Product Management at Intuit; and Pramod Shintri, Talent Acquisition Lead at Phantom

By Jackie Holland

At the Silicon Valley Product Management Association’s September event, senior recruiters from leading companies that hire professionals in product management and product marketing weighed in on some of the opportunities and challenges that face today’s product managers.  Over the course of an hour, the panelists explored the state of the hiring market, skills needed to be a product manager, the hiring process from beginning to end, steps recruiters take to help the selection of the right candidate, and the general rules and guidelines for hiring.

            The discussion, moderated by Brendon Wilson, SVPMA Board Member, spanned a broad range of the skills and tactics that define the modern product manager.  The edited highlights below begin with the discussion of the state of the hiring market for product managers.

 Amanda Hippe (Intuit): There are currently many available opportunities in the market.  Established companies and startups are looking for customer-obsessed product managers to help build great products; however, it is tough to find great people.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Even though the market is hot right now for product managers, there is no one common definition of a product manager; there are different definitions for what a product manager should be at a company because each company defines the role differently.

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen your resume for keywords.  To make sure you pass the screening, be sure to include keywords for the specific job you are applying to that match the job posting.  Additionally, enhance your resume by including data such as size of your teams and key accomplishments.  Use all available resources, such as LinkedIn, and be sure to search engine optimize (SEO) your profile. 

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): Companies are looking for relevant candidates that can hit the ground running when they are hired.  Product managers should have a strong technical background if they are looking to enter the cybersecurity market and be able to display leadership from the get-go; product managers are likened to “mini-CEOs” and should be able to “run and own it” starting from their first day.

What product manager skills are the most important for a product manager?

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): Product managers should have skills in understanding what customers want, specifically, understanding a customer’s user experience with the product.  In the cybersecurity industry, product managers should understand the product market, boast a technical background and have an entrepreneurial attitude.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Generally, candidates will need to demonstrate how they can transition into managing the product lifecycle at the prospective company while also relating their work experience to the job they are interviewing for.

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): At Flex, recruiters look for athlete candidates.  Athlete candidates are defined as having a broad background, are adaptable, and are able to manage short and long-term product lifecycles.

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Recruiters at Intuit also are looking for athlete candidates, however they define these “athletes” in a different way.  Athlete candidates are defined as having “scrappiness”—worked in a startup environment—are customer-obsessed, and are able to understand the complexity of the company’s products.

What does the hiring process look at from beginning to end? And how are recruiters balancing what they are asking for with the reality of skillsets available?

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Competitor analysis is used to determine industry-specific skills used to hire talent.  The hiring process involves understanding the candidate market, and understanding the probability  of finding specific skillsets.  Also, recruiters will partner with the hiring manager to determine the priorities of skillsets listed in the job description.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Good recruiters are trained to really understand the what, why and how of the job.  Recruiters go through lengthy discussions with the hiring manager to understand the skills, degrees, past work experiences, and leadership qualities that are necessary to fill the role.  Recruiters then will review many sources to retrieve resumes, such as internal applicants, LinkedIn, references and website applications to find which candidates meet a hiring manager’s needs.

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): The hiring process is heavily reliant on established relationships.  A candidate has a greater chance of being considered for a role if someone in the company can vouch for the applicant.  When there aren’t established relationships, recruiters spend a large amount of money on tools, such as LinkedIn, that will match applicants to jobs.

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): Recruiters look at domain experience when hiring for candidates.  While having a technology background is important, hiring candidates that have broad skillsets and leadership credentials, such as an MBA, is desired.

What things do candidates do that are dramatically undermining their ability to get hired?

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): Candidates undermine themselves when they show up with no knowledge or history of the company.  Good candidates are prepared and have looked at the company website, understand the company products and role of the job.

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Candidates undermine themselves when they add inconsequential information on their resume.  Good candidates have relevant content on their resume that describes what they built, the impact they made and are professional in the interview.

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): Candidates undermine themselves by not trying out free versions of the company’s software and not proofreading their resume.  Candidates should avoid misspellings with their resume and be well-versed with company stocks, and press releases.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Candidates should never share proprietary information and should never dress poorly in an interview.  Even if a candidate is a top leader in the field, they still need to dress well for the interview. 

We are in a dynamic environment and things change quickly.  What is the best advice for product managers who are career planning? What skills should they develop? What areas should they focus in?

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): Product managers should learn to get really comfortable with continuous feedback.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Product managers will need to have perseverance.  Looking for a job is difficult; there is always another opportunity around the corner.

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Preparation and practice are two things that we say we do but never do enough.  Product managers must be prepared.

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): Product managers should keep a pulse on the industry.  Leverage your current skills when looking at a new technology area.  Look at job descriptions often to see what companies and skillsets are trending.

What is the best recommendation to re-engage with a recruiter that messaged you in the past?

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): Re-engage with recruiters by sending them open positions for your desired companies.  If a recruiter left their role, their LinkedIn InMail is still attached to the company and your message will be routed to another recruiter at that same company.

Pramod Shintri (Phantom): When you message the LinkedIn recruiter, provide the job description and highlight 3-4 skills that you have that are relevant to the job.

What is the recommendation for an applicant applying for multiple product manager jobs on a company website?

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): There are many applicants that apply to multiple roles within a company.  The best practice is to apply to a maximum of two roles on the company website and then find out who is recruiting product managers on LinkedIn.  Once you have found who the recruiter is, send them a LinkedIn InMail and let them know you just applied to two open roles and would like to chat regarding your fit in the roles in which you applied.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): The Senior Vice President (SVP) is interested in hiring top talent.  Write to the SVP via LinkedIn and let them know about how you would be a great fit at the company.  The key to the message is to be respectful and direct.

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): For a large company, you may want to apply to many roles, just to make sure you aren’t passed over.

How do you answer compensation questions that are asked early in the interview process?

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Product managers should know what they want to make in their next move.  Product managers should be genuine and know their market range.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): It is against the law to ask about compensation in San Francisco.  Soon, California may also pass legislation that makes it against the law to talk about compensation.  Companies want candidates to be compensated correctly, so answer honestly with consistent compensation requirements.

What should a product manager do if they are transitioning from one industry to another?

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): A candidate will need to get in front of the right people and articulate how they stand out from the pack of other applicants.

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Try to leverage your network for a referral in that company

Do cover letters still matter?

Amanda Hippe (Intuit): Cover letters are typically not read.  Instead, the recruiter will review the resume to understand the candidate.

Tom Brouchoud (Visa): Have a cover letter so that you are not filtered out of a job.  Cover letters are great tools to explain deltas in your career history such as a job transition, or returning from a long leave of absence from the workforce.

Britt Thomas (Synopsis): Information in the cover letter should be added to your LinkedIn profile.

How many pages should there be in a resume?

All panelists – Two pages is the maximum unless the candidate is a PhD.  If a candidate is a PhD, it is acceptable to have a longer resume that includes the candidate’s patents, papers, research, etc.

Book recommendations from this panel include:

  • Sense and Respond by Jeff Gothelf
  • Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology by Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bavaro
  • The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Jackie Holland has over five years of experience in product management, UX and educational technology.  She is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University studying for her Master’s in Software Management and can be contacted at jeholland356@gmail.com.

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SVPMA | News Blog by Dan Galatin - 8M ago

July Event Review: “An Inside Look at the Customer Discovery and Product Development Process” with Kayla Matheus, Founder and CEO of MOTI.io

By Dan Galatin

How do you become an entrepreneur without an MBA or software development background?  Kayla Matheus addressed this and many other provocative questions at the July 12th meeting of the SVPMA.Kayla began her career with a deep academic background in design thinking, and worked for a while at a large consumer packaged goods company, before eventually getting the “itch” to strike out on her own.  She joined 30 Weeks, a founders program for designers in New York City and then was selected by the Google Creative Lab accelerator.

Kayla began with an inkling of the sort of problem she wanted to solve.  She had injured her knee in high school and realized that she needed help being motivated to do her physical therapy.  She realized that many of her friends also found it challenging to stay motivated to achieve their personal goals.  Kayla started to look at behavioral science research on how habits are formed.  There were plenty of existing apps that focused on encouraging habits, but they fundamentally failed to engage the user at the most effective moment, and there was too much friction and too many distractions involved in using these apps.  Likewise, Kayla found that wearable products like FitBit required too many indirect steps before they were effective at helping form good habits.  From surveys and deep market research, Kayla realized that external, emotional accountability was a key missing link: a cute physical toy or “social robot” with some anthropomorphic features could provide this support when you push its button!

Kayla started to build this for real.  She experimented with the nature of the user interface and built a variety of prototypes to put them into real people’s hands, to determine whether it was worth going down this path.  After getting positive feedback, Kayla and her team started making some videos showing her concept through storytelling, and built a website calling for beta users.  They got over 2,000 people with an intent to buy.  Kayla used the website to learn about her prospective customers’ demographics and the habits they wished to work on.  The team built about 35 beta MOTIs, along with the first version of the software for the product.  They experimented with different levels of interaction with the beta testers to eliminate bias, and found that no matter how often the team engaged with the testers, about 85% of users said that MOTI was essential to helping them form their habit.  People liked that it was physical, gratifying and seamless – this all was consistent with the underlying behavioral science.

The next step was to figure out how to scale and build a company out of this idea.  Kayla worked with an organization called Highway One to learn about how to design for scalable manufacturing.  She and her team worked with the program to prototype and test a number of design features.  She went to China to learn about the manufacturing process.  After figuring out the design and manufacturing details, the next question was, how to launch?  Answer: a Kickstarter campaign.  Unlike other Kickstarter campaigns, they didn’t have a seed round yet, and much of the pricing was cost-driven rather than market-driven.

MOTI ended up raising over $100,000, but this was not enough to support the company and attract sufficient funding in the current environment.  They found themselves at the “Fundraising Hell” stage that would have been extremely difficult to climb out of.  In short, there wasn’t sufficient market validation.  Kayla thinks this happened for a number of reasons, including an education gap in the market on social robotics and behavior change, and a mismatch between price and perceived value. 

MOTI pulled the Kickstarter launch and decided to pivot.  In retrospect, Kayla realized they were pushing to launch too early as opposed to pushing to learn.  They had spent too much time on the product and too little time focusing on the market.  They asked themselves how necessary was the hardware really.  Additional market research suggested two possible broad directions in which to pivot: continuing to develop hardware, but for B2B2C rather than direct to consumer; and/or producing consumer software.  The final decision has yet to be made, so stay tuned!

Kayla concluded her story with a few takeaways:

  • Adopt a human-centered way of thinking about both products and your marketing/business model
  • Start small, but don’t be afraid to pivot big
  • User research comes in many flavors

Overall, the MOTI team’s story was inspiring for their creativity and scrappiness.  Although the audience could easily relate to the experience of not hitting it “out of the park” on the first try, they were impressed with MOTI’s vision and came away believing that the company is destined for success.

Dan Galatin has over 20 years of combined experience in product management and software engineering.  He is Director of Communications for the SVPMA and can be contacted at dgalatin@yahoo.com.

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SVPMA | News Blog by Dan Galatin - 9M ago
June Event Review: “Comfortable Networking Techniques That Will Make Your Career” with Theresa Lina Stevens, founder and president, Lina Group Inc.

By Geoff Anderson

The June SVPMA monthly event was about 75 minutes of an engaging presentation and discussion on the topic of networking, something that is essential to helping you grow throughout your career, and to keep you engaged.  Yet the act of “networking” brings a wide range of emotions from those who are naturals, to those who are reluctant networkers at best.  Theresa brought clarity and some common sense advice that will be useful regardless of your proclivities.

Theresa began with a useful definition:

Networking is not meeting as many people as possible, but to define a path to where you want to be.

She started with an anecdote about how her “network” led to her adopted children, a demonstration that networking isn’t solely about work and professional life, but if done effectively, it can help you at all stages of life.

The Three Stages of Networking

Theresa laid out a clear delineation of the networking, analogous to the “sales funnel”.

  • Making Connections
  • Deepen Connections
  • Leverage Connections

In each of these stages there are some key attributes that define the stages.

Making Connections:

  • Barely know each other
  • Little or no trust
  • May get “low risk” Intros
  • May or may not go anywhere.

Following in the sales funnel analogy, this is a lot like the top of the funnel, where leads are shoveled in. Low quality, un-qualified, and corresponding low probability of becoming an order.

Deepen Connections:

  • Getting to know each other
  • Some trust
  • May get “low/med-risk” referrals
  • May or may not be reciprocal

Clearly, at this stage, the relationship becomes more solid, but still not into that high trust / high value state that is desirable.  However, if all goes well, some of these connections will move into the next stage…

Leverage Connections:

  • Strong relationship
  • High trust
  • Strong, “high-risk” referrals
  • Reciprocal

In this smaller group, you have formed a true bond, and a lasting relationship.  Both parties realize value from the relationship, and (unless one party does something awful) the bond will last a long time.

So, how does one proceed?

Making Connections

Clearly, the start of the process is to make the connection. The goal shouldn’t be to meet as many people as possible, but instead to build quality connections.

  • Meet people whenever and wherever possible
    • Seek opportunities for interaction
    • Have a goal (meet 3 people?)
  • Engage
  • Aim for friendship
    • Don’t be transactional
    • Show genuine interest and affection
    • Ask questions / be curious. Try to really get to know the person
  • Be real or natural. (people can tell “fake-ness”)
  • Personalize
  • Do what works for you
    • Experiment, and try different things until it feels natural
  • Let the network lead you
    • Don’t force it, follow it

Of course, there are some things to avoid:

  • Don’t assume you are a friend
  • Don’t expect indirect referrals (their reputation is more important to them than your “need”)
  • Don’t immediately “ask”
Deepening Connections

Here is where the real work begins.  After making the initial connection, it is time to begin nurturing the relationship.  Perhaps it will grow to something mutually beneficial, perhaps not. However, without an input of your time and effort, it will certainly not ever go anywhere.

Your goals should include:

  • Build lifetime relationships
  • Find out what they are seeking
  • Aim to “give” not get
  • Be proactive (make contact, and keep the thread alive)
  • Be a connector
  • Realize that relationships will get hot and cold. That is okay.
  • Stay in touch
  • Really care
  • Be appropriate

In this day and age of social media, there are many vehicles to build upon this relationship.  LinkedIn for the professional world is masterful at reminding you about the milestones in a connection.  It takes merely moments to recognize an anniversary, a birthday, a new job, or similar.  But do it beyond the confines of social media too.

How to deepen the connection?  Fortunately, there are ample opportunities:

  • Congratulate / compliment them on a recent accomplishment. If they are mentioned in a press article, forward it to them with some kind words.  It is amazing how well this works.
  • Mail (or even, for that personal touch, snail mail) them
  • Proactively introducing them to people who might be of interest
  • LinkedIn – enough said
  • Send a card: holiday, major event, birthday, condolences
  • Invite them to give a talk
  • Recommend them to someone else
  • (use cautiously) invite them to your mailing list (caution, as this might be considered spam, and off-putting)

Most importantly, keep it real.

Naturally there are some pitfalls to avoid:

  • Don’t develop a relationship to get something out of them
  • Don’t be a pain
  • Don’t be self serving
  • Don’t make empty contacts
  • Don’t pursue before you are ready

That leaves us with the main point, or …

Leverage Connections

Here is where value of networking begins to be realized.  After making the connection and deepening it, you are finally in a position to begin to leverage your network.  However, as before, there are some rough guidelines, and practical tips that help you keep your network healthy and strong.

  • Be clear on what you need. With the level of trust and reciprocity, don’t be afraid to ask, but keep it reasonable, and make it clear
    • Be “easy” to help
  • Make sure that others are clear as to what you need
  • Decide what sort of relationship makes the most sense for both parties:
    • Mentor
    • Potential employer or customer
    • Information sharing
    • Access to their mailing list
  • Be direct – –ASK
  • Be indirect – keep your values in front of them
  • It should feel natural – if it feels forced on your side, imagine what they see

There are many vehicles for doing this.

  • Start with a simple or easy request
    • Ask for an introduction
    • Ask to forward something to their lists
    • Make it low-risk for them
  • Requests via twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook
  • Ask for advice (show some vulnerability)
  • Draw on their expertise
  • Ask for referrals or ideas
  • Pitch them an idea
  • Let things happen naturally.

And most important of all, Give Give Give.  Be sure that you are giving more value than you are receiving.

Of course, with the leveraging phase, there are plenty of don’ts to keep in mind:

  • Don’t only get in touch when you want or need something (so very true)
  • Don’t be a user
  • Don’t expect direct payback
    • It may come from somewhere else
Sidebar – A coaching lesson from Jim

At this point, one of the SVPMA members, Jim Schibler, offered a lesson that he often uses while coaching executives to better build relationships, a path to more productive conversations.  In the “Making Connections” realm, use a little more details than the name and title at the introduction, establish some value, don’t be afraid to ask (these are executives, they are busy, and used to such interactions), and be sure to reciprocate.

The idea is to ensure that even early in the making connections stage that there is some specific value exchanged.

Explain what you can offer, what the situation is, and what you are looking for.

Summary and final tips

While the 75 minutes went remarkably quick, there was a significant volume of useful information. Theresa left us with some final thoughts:

  • Use LinkedIn and Facebook, appropriately – If appropriate, keep a firm delineation between business and personal spheres
  • Believe in, and be prepared for serendipity – it does happen
  • Do invest time and energy in your network. It does take effort
  • Put some soul into it
  • Be open
  • Never (ever) burn a bridge
  • Be sensitive to context and situation
  • Acknowledge and work on your weaknesses
  • Set your radar for opportunities
  • Be Strategic

Theresa also mentioned that there are some super networkers who have some rare traits, including:

  • Connector
  • Initiator
  • Giver
  • Tracker

Become a student of the process.  Her advice was to organize a small get together and practice your connecting skills.

Geoff Anderson – a practicing product manager with over 20 years of experience, in a variety of industries from semiconductor manufacturing equipment, networking technology, industrial measurement and test, enterprise communications software, nanotechnology, and educational services.  He has a degree in Physics from SJSU, volunteers in the rescue of retired racing greyhounds, mentors high school kids interested in science and physics, and loves to read science fiction novels.

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SVPMA | News Blog by Dan Galatin - 10M ago

May Event Review: “Product Management for the Internet of Things (IoT)” with Daniel Elizalde, Founder of TechProductManagement

By Dan Galatin

Daniel Elizalde presented a fascinating talk on what it takes to manage products for the Internet of Things at the May 3rd meeting of the SVPMA.  There is a tremendous amount of hype surrounding IoT, starting from the oft-repeated claim that by 2020, there will be 50 billion connected devices.  Many products have been introduced that don’t appear to be that useful, sometimes laughably so (a connected fork or a smart egg tray, anyone?).  Nevertheless, there are also many products that have significant impact on our daily lives (such as the Nest thermostat and critical infrastructure monitoring).  The number of companies involved in IoT presents a tremendous opportunity to product managers.  In 7-10 years, the majority of products will be connected.

The problem is that managing an IoT product is much more complicated than managing a standalone hardware or software product by itself.  Daniel described the definitional components of an IoT product via the example of wind turbine predictive maintenance.  IoT products consist of:
– Device hardware
– Device software (embedded in the device)
– Communications infrastructure
– Cloud platform (analytics, computing power, etc.)
– Cloud applications

Each of these components in the technology stack have different requirements and timeframes to manage.  Fundamentally, product managers need to consider IoT to be a set of tools that allow us to figure out a solution to a problem.  For example, the Brita Infinity water pitcher was enhanced to automatically order water filters when they run out.  IoT just happened to be the best solution to the problem of replenishing filters for consumers.

Daniel next introduced his IoT Decision Framework.  Bridging the gap between product strategy and product planning for IoT products is very complex, and the framework provides a strategic tool to help do this.  The framework is a matrix consisting of the five components of the technology stack, combined with the following decision areas:
– UX
– Data
– Business
– Technology
– Security
– Standards & Regulations

Using the framework, you consider how each of the decision areas impacts each of the technology stack components.  In the UX decision area, you figure out who are the users (both internal and external) and what their needs are, at each layer of the technology stack.  Next, you decide what data flows through each of the technology stack layers, and how it needs to be processed and stored.  The business decision area involves thinking about how you are going to monetize the entire solution, or each of the layers.  You need to consider costs and build/buy/partner decisions.  As is typical in product management, Daniel suggests not starting with technology decisions, but rather first thinking about the need, how you will make money, and then considering what technology will be required at each layer in the stack to deliver the solution.  You then need to figure out how you will secure each of the layers.  This is very important and not an afterthought – it needs to be considered early in the planning stage before anything is built.  Finally, understanding standards and regulations is critically important especially if you’re going to sell into a regulated industry like energy or healthcare.

It’s important to iterate once you go through the framework, since each of the decisions in one layer will impact each of the other layers.  Eventually, you will get to a steady state of consistent decisions.  Daniel advocated using this framework not just for creating for new products, but also for defining new features and evaluating potential partnerships.  He then ran through a quick example of applying the framework for thinking about data considerations at each layer of the IoT stack for the Nest thermostat.

Daniel concluded with some key takeaways.  Building IoT products is hard because of the complexity of the multiple components and decisions that are involved.  More and more products will become IoT products, so professionally we can’t ignore this trend.  Therefore, the more you stay ahead of the curve and learn about product management for IoT, the more likely you are to grow your career!

Dan Galatin has over 20 years of combined experience in product management and software engineering.  He is Director of Communications for the SVPMA and can be contacted at dgalatin@yahoo.com.

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SVPMA | News Blog by Dan Galatin - 11M ago

April Event Review: “Owning and Expanding Your Executive Presence” with JD Schramm, Ed.D., Class of 1978 Lecturer, Organizational Behavior, Stanford Graduate School of Business

By Vinesh Thakur

How do we identify a leader?  Why would we spend time and money just to hear him/her talk?  What is it that makes them different?  In the April 5th session of SVPMA, JD Schramm shed light on the effect of Executive Presence on a leader’s ability to effectively communicate to and lead people.  Executive presence is a recipe of skills that enhances the perception of an individual as a leader.  It provides a sense of confidence in a leader’s ability to make critical decisions in stressful situations.  It is what distinguishes them from the crowd and makes people stop and listen when they talk.

Effective communication is key in establishing executive presence.  A well-crafted message with a clear call to action boosts a leader’s credibility.  JD shared the AIM model for delivering coherent messages.  It involves understanding the Audience, identifying the Intent for the message, and finally using the right channels to get the Message out.  This framework can be used to convey messages and ideas for maximum impact.  In addition, by using the right channels, leaders can make their messages interactive.  This will help them build a connection with their audience and further their executive presence.

As an example of building a framework to measure executive presence, JD described key characteristics of effective crisis communication: commitment, empathy, transparency and expertise.  In 1982, Johnson and Johnson faced a tremendous crisis when seven people in Chicago were reported dead after taking its painkiller medication, Tylenol.  The company reacted to this crisis by taking responsibility and issuing an immediate nationwide product recall.  It cost them millions of dollars; however, it built a reputation of putting customers first and was key in recapturing the company’s lost market share.  Johnson and Johnson scored high on commitment, empathy and transparency while scoring low on expertise due to the unfamiliarity of the situation.

Drawing parallels from this framework, JD identified the four main characteristics for measuring executive presence: Authenticity, Confidence, Competence and Connection.  Aspiring authentic leaders need to make time for introspection so that they are clear on what they stand for.  In addition, they need to seek feedback from others around them so that they are continuously improving.  This is the most important characteristic for building executive presence.  If leaders are perceived as artificial, they run the risk of losing their following.  Authenticity also instills confidence in one’s ability to lead.  Since you are representing yourself accurately, confidence simply follows from that.  Competence is another important characteristic to build executive presence.  If you demonstrate competence, people will respect your opinions and decisions as a leader more.  Building a connection with your audience further develops your executive presence.  Effective storytelling is an easy way to build this connection.

Developing your brand based on how you act, how you speak and how you look can add greatly to your executive presence and help you make the most out of leadership opportunities.  Using these strategies, you can build your executive presence in order to be an effective leader.

Vinesh Thakur currently works as a Software Engineer at Cisco Systems.  He has previously held engineering positions at Juniper Networks and Citrix Systems in routing and security domains.  With almost 5 years of experience working as a software developer, Vinesh has worked on several different products across the development lifecycle.  He plans to use his ingenuity to develop innovative products as a future product manager, taking ideas from concept to successful launches.

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SVPMA | News Blog by Dan Galatin - 1y ago

August Event Review: “Software Monetization for the Now! Economy” with Austin Chiu, VP Sales and Marketing, Gemalto

By Geoff Anderson

Trends and Dynamics

Since the year 2000, fully 50% of the Fortune 500 companies have dropped off the Fortune listings.  Furthermore, the S&P 500 firms currently have an average tenure of just 17 years (whereas in the first half of the 20th century, it was 40 – 60 years.  Clearly, the market dynamics at the top are changing, and the speed of the business cycle is increasing.

There also have been notable failures, companies who were at the top of the game, clear leaders, who have vanished, or have become so diminished as to be irrelevant.  Companies like Blackberry (Research in Motion), Friendster, and Myspace are three in the tech space alone, but are hardly the only examples.

Clearly, digital disruption is upon us, and it has components across 5 key attributes:

  • Mobile technology
  • Social Media
  • Cloud
  • Big Data
  • IoT

Various parts of these combine to disrupt even the most entrenched old world businesses.

Take Amazon as an example.  Starting as a book seller, it targeted the Brick and Mortar giants of the mid to late 1990’s (Barnes and Noble, Borders notably).  But as they grew, and became the leader, they have strategically challenged the general products space, groceries, and media.  In each segment, Amazon has attacked the leaders or the top businesses, and their relentless focus and desire to succeed/dominate.

This goes back to the prescient Marc Andreesen quote from 2011 that software will take over the world. It seemed a bit far-fetched at the time, but has come true in 2016.  Think about what Uber did to the taxi business, or FillD is doing for refueling your automobile.   Even SpaceX is disrupting NASA and traditional space operations.

Looking at the trends of software use and smartphone use brings some interesting contrasts:


Time spent in Apps

# of regular used apps










Not surprisingly, the time spent on apps on smartphones/tablets is increasing significantly year on year, but the surprising fact is that the total number of regularly used apps has remained relatively constant.

This tells us that just having an app, or a plethora of app options isn’t driving customer usage, but instead the quality of the customer experience, and customer satisfaction is critical to break into that list of commonly used apps.

Looking at it from the time management and choices available, clearly in this day and age the average user or consumer is bombarded by options.  To gain, and win mindshare requires that you provide a superior customer experience.

Gartner predicts that in 2016, 89% of companies will compete on customer experience.

Some Examples of Customer Experience

The Disney corporation, masters of entertainment for family, and providing a seamless experience at their theme parks, properties and resorts, is combining smartphone apps, a “magic band” for the part patrons.  It provides point of use identification, and experience customization.  With it, a patron family can choose where they want to dine, order from the app, and when they arrive, they swipe their magic bands, and the restaurant will know what they ordered, where they are sitting, and seamlessly serve them.

This is an example of apps coupled with IoT, and their back end servers/services to provide an excellent experience to the visitors.  At the end of the day, it enables Disney to more effectively extract money from their visitors.

Another example is General Electric (GE).  As their businesses mature, and become more software centric, they found some trends in their customers.  Issues were that 81% of their customers wanted a subscription based model, with a solid 63% preferring to pay for consumption (or Pay as you Go).  In addition to these purchasing trends, they noted that IP theft and license non-compliance were high, often not caused by nefarious actions, but by virtualization and duplication that the technology makes possible.

Software Monetization

In the past, software was mostly sold via a perpetual license, and if it was business or enterprise, it had an annual maintenance fee that gave access to updates, or support.  With SaaS and Cloud solutions, it has become more prevalent to pay for software as a subscription.  Either by seats, or by components used, it is commonly a monthly or other periodic expense.

Lately, it has been a growing trend to offer software, or even tech hardware, in a pay per use scenario.  One example is Stryker, a maker of medical devices.  One of their most popular pricing options is the usage based pricing, where a very expensive instrument is paid for in the number of procedure or tests performed.  One benefit is that it greatly reduced the support overhead, and the activation issues.

One benefit of usage-based pricing is that to achieve it requires the gathering of a great deal of granular usage data.  This is a benefit to the vendors of the solution, as it allows the measurement of what features and options are used most frequently.  Thus for product managers, it offers a quantitative look at the efficacy of each option, feature, and capability.  We can know what is popular, and what is rarely used.

Additionally, for the business minded, this enables entitlement tracking, ensuring that the number of licenses used matches the number sold, tracking the versions, and even assisting in the support.  Imagine being able to accurately measure trials versus commercial activations, and the usage patterns of the software.

Gemalto Solutions

From here, we began to get into more specifics on the Gemalto offerings, a wide range of software licensing and activation mechanisms that provide a great deal of flexibility, connections to a wide range of back office automation (think SAP, Oracle, SalesForce).

A case study was offered: HP Enterprise.  A company that grew via a multitude of acquisitions, their activation technologies was all over the map.  Gemalto was brought in to create a single portal for activation that handled the behind the scenes coordination.  This led to reduced confusion in the market, and improved customer experience.

One more strength of the Gemalto solution is how to handle virtualization, where an installation can be virtualized and replicated/pushed throughout the data center(s).  Their solutions allow tracking and accounting for such tricky environments, helping vendors capture the revenue due to them, without restricting unduly the end user paradigm.  Using a cloud based solution, it provides tracking and accountability for the vendor of software.

Additionally, they have strength in multidevice environments, providing flexibility, and transparency for the users, yet capturing value for the vendors without alienating the user experience.


The take-aways that Austin wanted to leave us with were:

  • Focus on the customer experience. It is the differentiation of the current realm.
  • Truly understand how end users are using your products
  • Provide flexibility in how you sell (monetize) your software
  • Don’t lose sight of the value of the generated granular data on usage and use trends

Geoff Anderson has been in product management and product marketing for nearly 20 years in industries ranging from semiconductor capital equipment, to networking hardware, enterprise software, and industrial measurement equipment.  He is currently available for product management and marketing consulting.  gander@tralfaz.org 

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